A poor canola crop can be used for feed

Salvage canola crops can make good cattle feed, says a provincial beef and forage specialist.

“With dry conditions in the northern and southern parts of the province, late seeding and hailstorms in others, some canola crops could be candidates for salvaging and used for cattle feed,” said Barry Yaremcio.

Canola plants in full bloom to early-pod stage can have the same nutritional value as a good-quality first-cut mixed alfalfa-grass hay.

“Cattle will readily eat canola greenfeed or silage,” said Yaremcio, adding it may take two or three days for cattle to get used to it. “Depending on quality, canola greenfeed or silage could possibly make up 100 per cent of the daily ration. Hail-damaged canola is more difficult to evaluate, and a feed test result is needed before any recommendations can be made.”

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There are two additional concerns when feeding canola silage or greenfeed: Nitrate and sulphur content and high oil content.

“Nitrate is more of a concern with dry conditions because the crop did not develop sufficiently to use all the applied fertilizer. High sulphur content — above 0.4 per cent in the complete ration — can cause polio.”

Canola seed can contain up to 42 per cent oil by weight but rumen function is impaired when total fat or oil content in the ration exceeds seven per cent.

Testing for nitrate, sulphur and oil content should be requested when testing the feed, he said.

Producers should consider working with an expert to develop a feeding program utilizing canola greenfeed or silage.

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